US army boss in Baghdad
America's top military leader arrived in Iraq yesterday on a previously unannounced visit, his first since a United States-led coalition began launching air strikes against the extremist Islamic State group.
The visit by Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, came just two days after he told Congress that the United States would consider dispatching a modest number of American forces to fight with Iraqi troops against the extremist group.
The Iraqi military and security forces, trained by the US at the cost of billions of dollars, melted away in the face of the group's stunning offensive this summer, when it captured most of northern and western Iraq, including the country's second-largest city Mosul.
Dempsey said last Thursday that Iraqi forces were doing a better job now, although an effort to move into Mosul or to restore the border with Syria would require more complex operations.
He also told the US House Armed Services Committee that America has a modest force in Iraq now, and that "any expansion of that, I think, would be equally modest".
Dempsey's spokesman, Air Force Colonel Ed Thomas, said the general planned to visit US troops, commanders and Iraqi leaders. "The primary purpose of his visit is to get a first-hand look at the situation in Iraq, receive briefings, and get better sense of how the campaign is progressing."